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Show AND Tell

“Show, don’t tell” is probably the most well-worn saw in teaching creative writing, supposedly originating with Aristophanes.  It’s not bad advice, of course.  The ability to dramatize action, characterization and relationships in scenes is essential to most engaging story telling.  Mastery of the well-crafted scene in which the reader is able both to experience the situation at hand, and also interpret it – “read” it for meaning and understand its implications and reverberations in the story as a whole —  is necessary if one is to ever be a successful writer.  So why is it then, that I have come to want to kick something (or someone) whenever I hear that particular phrase trotted out?

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Writing a Book-length Memoir

For starters, you’re going to be overwhelmed. We might as well get that up front. Writing–or trying to write a book-length anything–is overwhelming. I know, because I’ve written several, and it was hell. And I’ve worked with a lot of other people who have written books, and I’ve never heard a one of them say, “Hey, that was easy.” Or if I did, I fled the other way. I did hear a few of them say it was good work, and certainly many of them said it was entirely worthwhile, possibly life-saving, and deeply satisfying. In other words, worth it. But still overwhelming, especially in the beginning (also in the middle, not to mention the end…). So, okay. Now you know. You’re going to be overwhelmed. Other people have been overwhelmed and lived to tell about it.

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